Statin guidelines we love to hate – and the docs who write them

Here at Ethical Nag World Headquarters, it’s been quite the week ever since the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released their new cardiovascular disease treatment guidelines, which I have taken the liberty of sub-titling:

“If you have a detectable pulse, you need to be taking statins!”

For more specifics on the guidelines – including the list of four newly-identified  groups of people whose heart health will benefit from taking cholesterol-lowering medicationoops, I mean statins only – every day for the rest of their natural lives, read yesterday’s Ethical Nag post, Can Statins Prevent My Head From Exploding?

What happens next? Your doctor will now review all 284 pages of the new guidelines, and then, in a bonding moment of shared decision-making, the two of you will soon sit down together to decide upon just the right course of action – oops, I mean drug prescription – based on what the guideline authors have recommended, in turn based on an (allegedly) flawed risk calculator that’s predicted to significantly increase the very large pool of daily statin-using drug takers, even among healthy individuals formerly considered low-risk for future cardiovascular disease.

But first, let’s set off for a behind-the-scenes visit to the people who actually write these treatment guidelines.  Continue reading

New heart medication study was “too flawed for publication”, says former journal editor

As a heart attack survivor, I’d love to believe that when my doctors read medical journal articles, what they’re reading about new drugs is true. But I might be wrong. Consider, for example, the criticisms aimed at a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine by the journal’s own former editor. Dr. Arnold Relman, professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, not only points out a couple of glaringly obvious omissions in this published research, but he also claims that he would have never have accepted such an article for publication during his NEJM tenure.

The study focused on an anticoagulant drug called apixiban (brand name: Eliquis) and it was entirely funded by drug giants Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer, who happen to jointly manufacture Eliquis.  Quelle surprise . . .  The drug companies claim that Eliquis helps prevent blood clots from forming following major surgery like knee replacement, and may prevent strokes in patients with the heart arrhythmia condition called atrial fibrillation.

But wait, warns author and investigative health journalist Alison BassContinue reading

Six not-so-simple steps toward protecting us from dangerous drugs

This 1960s anti-nausea pregnancy drug was withdrawn from the market for causing liver damage

Is your doctor prescribing dangerous drugs to you? Prescription drugs have in fact become a leading cause of death, disease, and disability in our society. That’s alarming to those of us who are heart attack survivors and must now take a fistful of cardiac meds every day, and to others like investigative health journalist Alison Bass, author of the book Side Effects.

Last month, she warned us yet again of the disturbing influence the pharmaceutical industry has on medical research and doctors’ prescribing patterns. Not a week goes by, she claims, without a new report on the marketing muscle of the industry and the pervasive ties between the industry and the doctors upon whom we rely for supposedly objective medical advice.”

In fact, the number of patients now taking prescription drugs has soared by 72% in just the last decade, with the result that an estimated 46 million North Americans suffer from adverse side effects and 2.2 million are hospitalized every year because of them.   Continue reading